Caulking windows is one of the best ways to stop drafts in your home. Most homeowners associate caulking with sinks and bathtubs because you replace this caulking more often, but caulking windows is equally important. It's just that caulking windows and doors is typically part of a larger painting project, so you forget about the caulking.
In fact many part's of your home's exterior have caulking. We'll use caulking windows as an example for this article, and then summarize all the other areas in your home where caulking plays a key role in stopping air (and water) from getting inside.
Caulking Windows at the Seams
Caulking is an old boat-building term (see how they caulk the seams in a wooden boat), to insure that wooden boats would float. Today caluking is also used to describe the sealants used to fill gaps between building materials. If these gaps aren't filled, air in the form of drafts can move through the gaps. Water can also get into your home if the seams on the exterior of your house aren't sealed properly.
On your home's exterior, caulking windows is done the same way. Caulk seals the gaps between the window trim and the siding on your house. When the trim is not an integral part of the window, caulk fills the space where the window and trim meet. Caulking is needed no matter what type of siding you have – wood, brick, vinyl or stucco (learn caulking basics).
Unless you get involved in a remodeling project, you might not realize caulking windows and doors happens. That's because it's buried in the list of things you do to prep walls and ceilings for painting, and most of the time your painter does it for you.
Notice how everyone is holding a caulking gun. You can now buy small 5 or 6 oz tubes of squeezable caulking repairs. However you'll need a quality caulking gun if this is something you'll be doing for years. In looking for photos to share, I found this new caulking gun that places the handle in the middle. This should make it easier for women to hold and maneuver, which is important. And before you start applying new caulk, you must remove the old caulking so there's a clean surface to adhere to. The painters tape will protect the surface next to the old caulk your removing, so you don't create a bigger problem when your hand slips.
Caulking Windows, Outside and Indoors Too
You're home's exterior walls are like a club sandwich. You see your home's siding on the outside, and painted walls on the inside. Between these 2 slices of bread, you know there is insulation plus electrical wiring and other stuff. When you open up your exterior walls to insert windows and doors, there's no insulation. That's why we have double (and now triple) pane windows, which trap air inside the glass to slow air movement the same way insulation works.
The seams around windows where they meet the siding aren't airtight. When your home was built, all the doors and windows were caulked. Because caulking is exposed to changes in temperature, rain and more, the caulking eventually stops doing it's job. Caulk simply cracks or pulls loose from windows and/or siding.
We could describe the steps involved in caulking windows but Ron Hazelton's video, How to Remove and Replace Exterior Caulk, has a great overview. To minimize drafts coming through or around your windows, you'll need more than window caulking:
- Double pane windows will reduce air flow through the glass.
- Window caulking will reduce air and water going through gaps where the windows meet the siding.
- Insulation will reduce air flow between the window and the framing (rough opening) used to hold the window in place.
- Weatherstripping will reduce air leaks where the window sash (movable window sections) slides past the window frame.
Exterior Caulking to Keep Your Home Comfortable
Now that you have a better understanding of exterior caulking, let's look at your home's exterior and where caulking is needed.
- Caulking windows and doors should be done as needed, and not just when you paint your home's exterior. Make sure you don't caulk over weep holes that are needed for water to escape from behind storm windows or screens.
- Caulk around exterior trim like corner boards, angles and decorative trim like columns that get wrapped with wood.
- Caulking should be used where siding meets your home's foundation.
- On the roof, caulking is critical where anything sticks up – chimney, vent stacks and skylights.
- Where utilities enter your house through exterior walls – faucet, wiring, cables, etc.
- Caulk around new wood when replacing – siding and other wood trim.